Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia once lamented the fact that there was not more diversity on the bench. He was not referring to more African Americans or more gays or more women. He was specifically referring to Evangelicals or born again Christians.
The fact is that while some polls show as many as 48% of the American public claim to be born again, not one of them has ever sat on the Supreme Court. And don’t expect that to change any time soon. As Scalia pointed out, our most recent Court consisted of six Catholics and three Jews.
In 1988, working for the George H.W. Bush campaign for president, I was confronted with Evangelical pastors and denominational leaders complaining about the extra legal and accounting expenses they were incurring.
We were told that the IRS was unfairly targeting their non profits and actually requiring them to change doctrines to meet newly, governmentally created criteria. For example, new IRS rules were requiring that all religious organization have sacradotal functions or lose their tax exemption. But must the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association actually conduct mass communion services and perform marriages to be a legitimate religious non profit?
The problem was that many of such issues were on their way to the Supreme Court and could impact American Christianity for years to come.
“We represent almost half of the country and we don’t have a Supreme Court Justice?” They would point out.
When the Bush, Sr. campaign won the White House we conducted a study out of my office. We were on the hunt for a good born again Christian, federal judge. Out of 749 authorized, active, federal judges who were then confirmed and serving in their positions, we could find only four who claimed to be “born again.”
How could they hope to have a Supreme Court Justice when they were so poorly represented among federal judges? And how could such a thing happen to a massive bloc of the American public?
Then a news story appeared declaring “IRS to target evangelical ministries.” It sent a chill throughout the evangelical world. I was ordered to try to ameliorate the situation.
When we learned that an IRS regional director of non profits was a “Catholic Pentecostal” and claimed to be “born again,” we invited him to my office and I latter had dinner with him in the White House mess.
I asked my guest, “Can you imagine what would happen if there was a headline saying that the IRS is targeting Jewish organizations?
“Can you help us with this issue?” I asked. “Are there other born again Christians in the IRS so we can get some dialogue going and make sure this is not some institutional bias?”
“Oh yes,” he assured me, there is no bias at all in our culture. “I can find some top officials at the IRS who understand this and can help us, I am sure there are plenty of other born again employees at top levels of the agency.”
But after six months we could not find another, single, self identified born again Christian official in the top 300 positions at the IRS. They may have been there but we could not find them.
In 1990, I arranged an Oval Office meeting between the president of the United States and the last four presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention. They wanted one thing. The appointment of one, just one, federal judge.
“Well, that’s a done deal,” the president said, turning to me. “Isn’t it Doug?”
I concurred. We had a name and it was on the fast track to the Senate.
But when we started to advance the president’s nominee he was immediately opposed by an avalanche of media and special interest attacks. We tried another and another. Some with impeccable credentials. Not a chance.
We finally succeeded in getting one nominee onto the FCC but only by hiding his religious background. He was very successful and went on to head the Public Broadcasting System where he was widely acclaimed.
I told this story to George W. Bush, who had been my boss during the campaign and would check in on the White House from time to time. Later, as president, he tried to nominate born again Christian, Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. She was quickly shot down.
Ironically, many of the evangelical Washington based organizations, who raise money from fellow Christians to lobby the government, turned against her. The story in Washington was that they had received bigger donations from other competing, non evangelical organizations.
One thing for sure. There will be no born again Christian on the Supreme Court now or anytime soon. It won’t matter if they eventually represent half of the American public. The national mainstream media will maintain its veto power over American culture. And this is one important way that it does the job.